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England Inches Down the Road to Serfdom

England Inches Down the Road to Serfdom

Hayek’s whole purpose in writing this chapter, “The Totalitarians in Our Midst,” serves as a warning to his readers.

Hayek has spent the last few chapters of The Road to Serfdom explaining the roots and rise of totalitarian governments. In chapter twelve, Hayek highlighted prominent Marxist theorists who would later lay the roots for the German National Socialist party.

Hayek’s whole purpose in writing this chapter, “The Totalitarians in Our Midst,” serves as a warning to his readers. The mass death of WWII had devastated and shocked the world. But unless individuals were able to identify how totalitarianism had taken over Europe in the first place, they would be ill-prepared to prevent it from happening again.

It was for this reason that Hayek uses chapter thirteen to demonstrate to his readers that a similar perversion of truth was already occurring among England’s intellectual elite as had occurred in the leadup to the Third Reich.

Individualism in Danger

England, which, as explained in the last chapter, represented the origin of individualist thought, had steadily been heading down a similar road as Germany had in the decades prior to WWII. While it may have taken a different form, when looked at from the perspective of totalitarianism in all things economic, England, as it stood in 1944, had taken swift strides away from liberalism and instead found itself headed in the direction of complete central authority.

It is for this reason that Hayek’s writing sounds so urgent in this chapter. As fresh as WWII was in the minds of all people, Hayek is urging them to not become complacent. It was not enough to mourn the recent past; they needed to proceed vigilantly and look to the enemies in their own nations.

As Hayek writes:

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Empty Countryside

THE EMPTY COUNTRYSIDE

I thought the sheep was dead. It was lying in the middle of a big grass field with its legs in the air. I wasn’t surprised; those fields are rented by a farmer who can’t afford to run his business in the way modern farming demands. He doesn’t own enough land to scale up his production by borrowing against its value. The result is not too many beasts on the farm,but too few: in this case six scraggy ewes roaming 15 acres. As I walked by, the dead one waved her legs. Alive then, but stuck on her back by her weight of wool. I trudged across to her, put my foot on her side and pushed her over away from me. She scrambled to her feet and ran off, fleece bouncing, bleating confusedly. If I hadn’t rescued her she probably would have died. No one would have noticed in time because no one passes this way.

For thousands of years, the English countryside has never been so empty of people and animals as it is now.

The part of West Dorset where I live was once a busy network of small farmsteads, most with fewer than 100 acres, keeping Red Devon cattle for meat and milk. Today, the old farm names on the Ordnance Survey map are a roll call of lost activity: Prime, Oselhay, Middlebrook, Taphouse, Lower Park, Purcombe, and Higher Sminhay. Their land has been sold and consolidated into bigger agricultural landholdings. Some of the farmhouses are second homes or holiday lets. Many more settlements have simply disappeared. The 1861 census lists Dodseye, Brickhouse, Poor House, Froghouse and Duckpool – all gone

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

UK’s European Future In Jeopardy: London Mayor Boris Johnson Will Campaign For Brexit

UK’s European Future In Jeopardy: London Mayor Boris Johnson Will Campaign For Brexit

Yesterday, when we summarized the statements by UK politicians regarding the June 23 EU referendum, we said the one most important opinion has yet to come: that of London mayor Boris Johnson’s whose “opinion may sway the vote one way or another in four months. As the Telegraph reproted that “David Cameron is mounting a last-ditch effort to woo Boris Johnson to back his campaign to stay in the European Union, by drawing up plans for a new constitutional settlement that puts the sovereignty of British institutions beyond doubt.”

As the Telegraph added, “sources close to Johnson said he remained “genuinely torn” and that he would “chew over” what the prime minister has to say when Cameron appears on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday, before issuing some form of statement this evening. He will then spell out the reasons for his decision in his column for the Daily Telegraph on Monday.”

It appears that Cameron’s effort to “woo” Johnson has failed because moments ago BBC reported that “Boris Johnson is to campaign to leave the EU in the UK’s referendum, BBC understands.”

The Guardian has more:

Boris Johnson is to transform the terms of the EU referendum by announcing that he is to throw his weight behind the campaign to take Britain out of the EU, according to the BBC.

In the biggest boost to the Leave campaign so far, the London mayor is to announce that after much soul-searching he now believes the time has come for Britain to sever its EU membership.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

We Know How This Ends, Part 2

We Know How This Ends, Part 2

In March 1969, while Buba was busy in the quicksand of its swaps and forward dollar interventions, Netherlands Bank (the Dutch central bank) had instructed commercial banks in Holland to pull back funds from the eurodollar market in order to bring up their liquidity positions which had dwindled dangerously during this increasing currency chaos.  At the start of April that year, the Swiss National Bank (Swiss central bank) was suddenly refusing its own banks dollar swaps in order that they would have to unwind foreign funds positions in the eurodollar market.  The Bank of Italy (the Italian central bank) had ordered some Italian banks to repatriate $800 million by the end of the second quarter of 1969.  It also raised the premium on forward lire at which it offered dollar swaps to 4% from 2%, discouraging Italian banks from engaging in covered eurodollar placements.

The “rising dollar” of 1969 had somehow become anathema to global banking liquidity even in local terms.

The FOMC, which had perhaps the best vantage point with which to view the unfolding events, documented the whole affair though stubbornly and maddeningly refusing to understand it all in greater context of radical paradigm banking and money alterations.  In other words, the FOMC meeting MOD’s for 1968 and 1969 give you an almost exact window into what was occurring as it occurred, but then, during the discussions that followed, degenerating into confusion and mystification as these economists struggled to only frame everything in their own traditional monetary understanding – a religious-like tendency that we can also appreciate very well at this moment.

At the April 1969 FOMC meeting, Charles A. Coombs, Special Manager of the System Open Market Account, reported that the bank liquidity issue then seemingly focused on Germany was indeed replicated in far more countries.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

We Know How This Ends, Part 1

We Know How This Ends, Part 1

The finance ministers and representatives of central banks from the world’s ten largest “capitalist” economies gathered in Bonn, West Germany on November 20, 1968. The global financial system was then enthralled by a third major currency crisis of the past year or so and there was great angst and disagreement as to what to do about it. While sterling had become something of a recurring devaluation tendency and francs perpetually, it seemed, in disarray, this time it was the Deutsche mark that was the great object of conjecture and anger. What happened at that meeting, a discussion that lasted thirty-two hours, depends upon which source material you choose to dissect it. From the point of view of the Germans, it was a convivial exchange of ideas from among partners; the Americans and British, a sometimes testy and perhaps heated debate about clearly divergent merits; the French were just outraged.

The communique issued at the end of the “conference” only said, “The ministers and governors had a comprehensive and thorough exchange of views on the basic problems of balance-of-payments disequilibria and on the recent speculative capital movements.” In reality, none of them truly cared about the former except as may be controlled by the latter. These “speculative capital movements” became the target of focused energy which would not restore balance and stability but ultimately see the end of the global monetary system.

Some background is needed before jumping into West Germany’s financial energy. The gold exchange standard under the Bretton Woods framework had appeared to have lasted as far as this monetary conference, but it had ended in practicality long before. In the late 1950’s, central banks, the Federal Reserve primary among them, had rendered gold especially and increasingly irrelevant in settling the world’s trade finance.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Who May Use the King’s Forest? The Meaning of Magna Carta, Commons and Law in Our Time

Who May Use the King’s Forest? The Meaning of Magna Carta, Commons and Law in Our Time

The relationship between law and the commons is very much on my mind these days.  I recently posted a four-part serialization of my strategy memo, “Reinventing Law for the Commons.”  The following public talk, which I gave at the Heinrich Boell Foundation in Berlin on September 8, is a kind of companion piece.  The theme: this year’s celebration of the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta and its significance for commoners today.

Thank you for inviting me to speak tonight about the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta and the significance of law for the commons.  It’s pretty amazing that anyone is still celebrating something that happened eight centuries ago!   Besides our memory of this event, I think it is so interesting what we have chosen to remember about this history, and what we have forgotten.

This anniversary is essentially about the signing of peace treaty on the fields of Runnymede, England, in 1215.  The treaty settled a bloody civil war between the much-despised King John and his rebellious barons eight centuries ago.  What was intended as an armistice was soon regarded as a larger canonical statement about the proper structure of governance.  Amidst a lot of archaic language about medieval ways of life, Magna Carta is now seen as a landmark statement about the limited powers of the sovereign, and the rights and liberties of ordinary people.

The King’s acceptance of Magna Carta after a long civil war seems unbelievably distant and almost forgettable.  How could it have anything to do with us moderns?  I think its durability and resonance have to do with our wariness about concentrated power, especially of the sovereign.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Happy Birthday Magna Carta

Happy Birthday Magna Carta

Monday, June 15, 2015, is the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. In his book, Magna Carta, J.C. Holt, professor of medieval history, University of Cambridge, notes that three of the chapters of this ancient document still stand on the English Stature Book and that so much of what survives of the Great Charter is “concerned with individual liberty,” which “is a reflexion of the quality of the original act of 1215.”

In the 17th century Sir Edward Coke used the Great Charter of the Liberties to establish the supremacy of Parliament, the representative of the people, as the origin of law.

A number of legal scholars have made the irrelevant point that the Magna Carter protected rights of the Church, nobles, and free men who were not enserfed, a small percentage of the population in the early 13th century. We hear the same about the US Constitution–it was something the rich did for themselves. I have no sympathy for debunking human achievements that, in the end, gave ordinary people liberty.

At Runnymede in 1215 no one but the armed barons had the power and audacity to make King John submit to law. The rule of law, not the rule of the sovereign or of the executive branch in Washington acceded to by a cowardly and corrupt Congress and Supreme Court, is a human achievement that grew out of the Magna Carta over the centuries, with ups and downs of course.

Blackstone’s Commentaries in 1759 fed into the American Revolution and gave us the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Fracking set to be banned from 40% of England’s shale areas

Guardian analysis reveals new rules agreed by government will make huge swath of protected areas off limits for shale gas exploration

Fracking is set to be banned on two-fifths of the land in England being offered for shale gas exploration by the government, according to a Guardian analysis.

Such a wide-ranging ban would be a significant blow to the UK’s embryonic fracking industry, which David Cameron and George Osborne have enthusiastically backed.

There were setbacks last week after the Scottish government declared a moratorium and UK ministers were forced to accept a swath of new environmental protections proposed by Labour, leading some analysts to say the outlook for fracking was bleak

One of those new protections was to rule out fracking in national parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONBs), sites of special scientific interest (SSSIs) andgroundwater source protection zones (SPZs).

Neither the government nor Labour have stated how much of the land available for future shale gas drilling – 60% of England – would be affected by the new bans. But a Guardian data analysis has revealed it is 39.7%, with large swaths of the south and south east off-limits, as well as the Yorkshire Dales and Peak district.

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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